Couture FW 2020
Photos Courtesy of Balmain
Cruising Through The Years with Balmain
Balmain Sur Seine
It’s the very beginning of deconfinement in the city of light, and what could have been a usual cloudy Parisian day turned into a sunny and memorable time. Olivier Rousteing, who’s been at the helm of Balmain for almost a decade, sets sail on the Seine, for his second couture collection for the French house, with the most iconic backdrop of all: the Eiffel Tower! Couture, traditionally reserved for the most exclusive and intimate settings, this season, Rousteing takes it to a public forum in front of thousands of spectators, watching over the various bridges and the river’s banks, making that fashion segment available for all for the first and probably last time. #BalmainSurSeine is then a live performance of 50 dancers led by French pop singer Yseult, on a small boat, composed of glass floors, allowing the viewers to see the clothes through different angles. The millennial designer has always been at the forefront of social media in modernizing the 75-year-old brand, as he’s always embraced the digital world, whether by being the first luxury brand to be part of the shopping platform on Instagram, to set the tone today as Balmain officially partnered with TikTok for a Livestream of the Fall/Winter 2020 social distancing show.
Rousteing describes this digital experience as an “Exhibition on water and Balmain’s gift to the city of Paris”. To our surprise, we believe it’s also the first time a couture collection is not just inspired by the house’s previous designers, but its principal components are in fact pieces from the archives itself. In a short video shot by Balmain, we see Rousteing, guiding the different models on the boat, wearing pieces from 1946, 1956, the 80s and 90s, and eventually recognizable looks from his collections from 2012 til the ready-to-wear of fall 2020, such as the raffia and plastic short dresses, the long fitted embroidered pearl black ensemble, and most recently the multi-colored fringe attire. Though we understand the value of celebrating the tenure of Balmain for the past seven decades, honoring the ones before him such as Erik Mortensen and the beloved Oscar de la Renta, the dots simply didn’t connect. The show started with a strapless black tulle gown from 1989, A-line formal satin gowns, followed by a ruffled cocktail black dress with lace details, pleated evening gowns stressed at the waist, and ended with black and white suits worn by both men and women. The closing look is a biker bodysuit with squared stones in the middle, styled with a black and white long sleeve open collar jacket.
Big shoulder pads, round shape gold buttons, and the modern twist of suits are all part of the Rousteing universe and Balmain’s signature, but somehow this collection lacked inspiration for us. The only common thread between the different eras was the French attitude throughout the years thanks to the accessories such as the beret, the velvet and leather opera gloves, and the appreciation of embellishments. Whilst the silhouette and color palette were cohesive; we believe there wasn’t much balance made between the items selected from the archives from the past collections till the present day. It felt like Rousteing only had a glance at the brand’s heritage and looked further into his own past.
By Anne-Isabelle Saint-Pierre